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First evidence of Crusader war camp discovered in northern Israel

During work to expand a highway near Tzippori, dozens of metal artifacts are found, including horseshoe nails that the Christian invaders used before setting out to battle

The Crusader camp near Tzippori in northern Israel (Israel Antiquities Authority/Courtesy)
The Crusader camp near Tzippori in northern Israel (Israel Antiquities Authority/Courtesy)

Archaeologists in the Galilee recently found the remains of a Crusader encampment, marking the first such discovery of a campsite used by the Christian invaders in the Holy Land in the 12th century.

The medieval camp was discovered on Route 79 near Tzippori, some 30 kilometers from Tiberias, during work to expand the highway.

Dozens of metal artifacts, including coins, arrowheads, and horseshoe nails, were found at the site, which researchers said belonged to a temporary military settlement in the Kingdom of Jerusalem at the time, between 1099 and 1291.

“Most of the nails we found were used ones,” archaeologist Rafi Lewis told the Haaretz daily, explaining that the Tzippori camp was likely used as a pitstop for soldiers to replace broken horseshoe nails before continuing on to a battle.

“It’s like, when you go to war you don’t want a flat tire on your jeep. They came from all over the place, some from Tyre, some from Ashkelon, and it would have been a few days’ ride to Tzippori. The first thing to do is replace the horseshoe nails,” Lewis added.

Some of the coins found at the site date back to Roman times, the earliest being struck in Tyre at the end of Trajan’s reign, according to Haaretz.

A European-style horseshoe nail found at a Crusader camp near Tzippori in northern Israel. (Clara Amit/Israel Antiquities Authority/Courtesy)

The latest of the coins were Byzantine bronze coins, minted in large quantities in the Greek city of Antioch by Constantine I and following regimes, the report said.

Lewis also said they also found “aristocratic artifacts,” such as European-style hairpins and gilded buckles that were likely used by knights and other elites.

Coin of Baldwin III (1143–1163 CE), found at a Crusader camp near Tzippori in northern Israel. (Clara Amit/Israel Antiquities Authority/Courtesy)

But archaeologists believe that anything more substantial would have likely been packed up and taken back to permanent fortifications, amid the final battles when Muslim forces retook Jerusalem.

The camp itself was likely abandoned in July of 1187, as Crusaders set out to assist their allies in Tiberias, which was under siege during the Battle of Hattin, researchers said.

Separately on Monday, a diver found a 900-year-old sword dating back to the same Crusader period, , along with various other artifacts, off the Carmel beach in the north of the country.

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